Archive for the ‘out and about’ Category

Feast on the Bridge scene

Banquet tables on Southwark Bridge

Sorensen and Byrne's Tick-Tock installation

The ‘Feast on the Bridge‘ event yesterday in Southwark Bridge allows visitors a chance to tate food from the UK’s leading sustainable producers (much of them you can find in the London Borough Market). People were churning butter, treading grapes, and a lot (like us) were just enjoying the atmosphere whilst downing some organic ale.

What impressed me was that, they have people going around scraping food from paper plates. Hopefully, they all go into composting!


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So where were you last bank holiday Monday? Living in London and never been to the carnival, we decided to give it a go if only to soak up the atmosphere (and remind ourselves not to stay too late lest we get caught up in the violence that the carnival is infamous for).

I’m not going to talk about what fun we had or what antics people get up to. Let’s just say these are scenes you would not see every day in the streets. And definitely not in broad daylight.

But going through the streets off the parade route, the ones lined with food stalls and the intoxicating smell of jerk chicken in the air, you see the mountains of rubbish – plastic bottles, plastic cups, aluminum cans, bottles, styrofoam containers, half eaten chicken, lots of rice, leaflets.

And i thought a lot of them can be recycled. shops should have been banned from using styrofoams. and we really should make an effort in finishing our meals. and there are plenty of bins about, there really is no excuse why you should leave your beer bottles where you’ve finished them. (a lot of us were scared in cutting our feet from the countless broken bottles in the streets)

It’s ok to have fun. Believe me, I am all for it. And the carnival is a much welcome respite for a lot of us. But I can’t help thinking how much we are costing the environment with our ‘sense of fun’. Really, we can have that much fun whilst knowing how to throw our trash in the proper recycling bin right?

[Image swiped from 474 votes to win]

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There is no holiday mode to being green.

No, we don’t mean that you settle for staycations or cycle all the way to your destinations or stay in an eco-lodge or calculate your flight emissions and purchase carbon offsets (Though you can do all these too).

We’re suggesting simple things. Really more like the ones you do at home. We’ve put together some things we have started practicing ourselves. So have a look at the list we’ve put together:

  • Turn off the lights, air conditioning, electrical appliances when leaving the room. You don’t leave the lights on at home, do you? Just because you don’t see the electric bill, doesn’t mean that you can waste electricity.
  • Do the same when it comes to using water. Turn the taps off whilst brushing your teeth. For a lot of countries, having running water is a luxury and most homes are on water rationing. So, use water with care.
  • Planning to shop abroad? Bring your reusable bags with you so you don’t take home extra plastics.
  • Getting souvenirs? Please don’t buy corals, anything (jewelry or traditional medicines) made of ivory, or from wild animals, plants that are endangered (orchid, cacti and the likes)
  • Support the local shops. Buy local produce, locally-made merchandise (check the labels), eat at independently-owned restaurants.
  • Find green ways to get around. Ok you flew there. But if you can get around using the public transports, walking or cycling, do so. Still need a car? Check if there are hybrid options or pick the most fuel-efficient car.
  • Travel with your own water bottle. In places where only bottled water are the safe options, buy big bottles and refill your reusable bottles.
  • Re-use towels and bed linens. Put on the ‘Do not disturb’ sign if your hotel doesn’t give you options to reuse (look out for signs that says hang the towels if you don’t want them replaced).
  • Bring your own toiletries. Those small bottles they give you at hotels add up to a lot of wastes.
  • Use a digital camera, if you don’t already. No need to print.
  • Don’t take the free maps or brochures unless you really need them. Have a notebook handy to write if you just need a few details. Or use your phone’s notes applications. I carry an e-book reader to view itineraries and maps I download before travelling.
  • If you need equipments, rent or borrow instead of buying new. Especially if you’re not sure if you’ll be using them again.
  • Travel light. Saves you a lot of back troubles and will make you more flexible on your itinerary. Get over yourself and mix and match outfits. Pack in those clothes that don’t need ironing.
  • Read up on the local cultural, economic, environmental issues of the place you’re visiting so you know that you’re not adding to their problems.

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London newspapers

I just think people’s idea of recycling IS leaving their paper on the train for somebody else to read.

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A lot of manufacturers have already realised the importance of having a green credential. More and more customers have been asking how their products are manufactured – can they be more eco-friendly, what is their stand on environmental issues?

And whilst a lot have made the necessary changes. Others have resorted to greenwash.

I’ve seen a lot on the grocery shelves. With big words- ‘environmental’, ‘eco-friendly’, ‘WWF’. But look closely, and you see nothing more. They don’t say why they’re environmental. They don’t say what steps they’re taking. It’s like buying their product just magically transforms you.

Recently, the husband and I booked a trip to the continent. Travelling by the now ‘carbon neutral’ eurostar and staying in an eco-friendly hotel – this trip is promising to be not too bad for our carbon footprint.

I booked a train and hotel deal, so really, the hotel being an ‘eco’ one was a bonus that I did not quite expect. But I did wonder why the credential of being ‘eco’ was in the smaller prints.

So we got there. And looked through their brochures and did not find any explanation as to how they became eco-friendly. There was a sign in the bathroom saying we should reuse our towels and to hang them if we don’t want them replaced. Another sign by the door reminds guests to turn off the lights before leaving. But was this enough to say they were an eco friendly hotel? I mean, isn’t every other hotel doing this already? Because it makes sense – as a hotel, not only do you save precious resources, you save money as well. All for printing and displaying a few signs.

But still, being greenwashed once too many times is just making me feel a bit stupid.

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Most of the time, I carry a book and some technical materials (read: boring stuff i need to read!) with me. But, there are just days that I wanted a non-challenging read – maybe to pore over the latest news, and gossips (sshhh!!), and maybe the latest must haves.

So, yes, never mind that the articles are poorly written or that it’s a rehash of something we have read like a week ago in another paper or in the internet, the free newspapers do come in handy sometimes.

Everybody else usually leave their paper on the train, I guess it became a habit for most. As most of the time, it gets picked up by another person dying for something to read. Quite considerate, if you think about it.

Most of the time people think that leaving litter is quite antisocial, and why it doesn’t apply to leaving newspapers as well still baffles me. You’ve probably left your paper on the seat, or at the back of the seat, or even stuffed them in between the seats. But, I’ve seen people just dropping them wherever, without looking back. Grown men. Professional looking, well-dressed people. It just seemed acceptable, and nobody else would raise an eyebrow. Either that, or we are too polite to tell them off – I am guilty of this, though at times I stare them to death, but to no avail as they had their backs turned to me anyway.

It’s an eyesore. And it could be dangerous as people are likely to slip on them in stairwells.

Aside from that, they’re most likely to end up in the landfill.

The cleaning fairies do exist to clean up after us. London Underground staff, and people from one of the afternoon free papers regularly pick up what we’ve dropped. Keeping the eyesore to a minimum and nobody slips and sue them.

6,500 tons of our garbage, mostly paper, is left on the Metronet-maintained trains and stations each year. Only about half can be sent for sorting and recycling, though improvements to these figures are being made and a further 21 tonnes each week are being recycled.

Some 1.5 million of these free paper are given away in and around London each day. Note that this article is still in 2006. There are certainly more of them around today. An interesting aspect in this article is that, we are all paying for those “free” paper in the form of our council tax – for clearing up, to be put into the landfill, incinerated or recycled. Not to mention the costs to the environment. I think our council tax can be of better use elsewhere.

It might be helpful to note, that at least some of these free papers are doing something to help. Publisher of London Lite and the London Paper, have each installed 35 bins in the West End and Victoria. And the London Paper “uses environmentally friendly ink that can be broken down without specialist recycling techniques”. Too little help, I think, but it is a start.

Meanwhile, I think I’ll just stick to my books and technical reads to keep me entertained in the Underground. I don’t really want the free papers to print any more copies for my sake.

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You’ve had the best intentions. You’re out to save the earth. And then…you forgot your shopping bag. Or you realise your coffee flask is still sitting in the sink and you’re running out the door.

It does take a while. It’s like forming a habit. Well, it IS forming a habit.

I remember I took to using reusable bags a couple of years ago. And every other trip to the grocery, I’d forget. This is still happening to me last year. Now I don’t forget them on shopping days but keep forgetting to keep a reusable bag in my bag for those impromptu shopping sprees.

Now that I got my flask, I start to forget again. There are days that it’s still in my bag waiting to go into the sink just when I’m already runnning late.

Most of the time, I’d forgo a coffee rather than get a disposable cup. But other times, well, I just got to have a coffee.

And remember that out of the way coffee shop with fairtrade coffee and organic milk? I was in a hurry once, and in need of caffeine and ran to the nearest one to the platform.

But this is no new year’s resolution. It’s much more than that. It’s a resolve to make my difference. I can be forgetful, and I can waver when pushed. But my intentions are there. I just need to keep working at it. Wish me luck.

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